Open letters to U of T re COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Panel discussion – Universities in the time of COVID and vaccine mandates

On October 14, 2021, Civitas Canada, in partnership with True North, hosted a panel discussion with Prof. Julie Ponesse (former professor of ethics, Western University), Allison Pejovic (lawyer, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms), Dr. Stephen Pellech (professor of neurology, University of British Columbia), and Benjamin Gabbay (graduate student, University of Toronto), moderated by Lindsay Shepherd, discussing the legal and ethical implications of vaccine mandates at Canadian post-secondary institutions, as well as how these mandates affect the on-campus experience for students and faculty.

Click on the video thumbnail above to watch or click here to view it on YouTube.

August 6, 2021

From: Concerned University of Toronto Student Group
Represented by Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]ail.com

To: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Re: U of T to require vaccination for high-risk activities, self-declaration of vaccination status

We are a group of returning undergraduate and graduate University of Toronto students from various faculties and fields of study. We are writing this letter in response to the university’s recent announcement of its intention to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students participating in certain “high-risk” in-person activities, including Varsity sports, music performance, and educational placements.[1]

We believe that a student’s medical history and medical decisions should not be the basis for differential treatment by an academic institution. Students should not be required to disclose their medical history or wear it like a badge of honour or shame — through differential treatment or other means — for their fellow students and faculty members to see and judge. In addition, requiring a student to disclose private medical information may be in violation of Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act.[2]

It is typically argued that such privacy violations and medical mandates are justified by the unusually high risk posed by COVID-19; however, this justification falls apart when examining the assumptions that underpin it. We would like to address the following points specifically:

Special COVID advisor Prof. Sal Spadafora states that COVID vaccines “provide the best protection from COVID-19.” This disregards a substantial body of evidence indicating that natural immunity obtained through prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 provides a robust immune defense against reinfection with SARS-CoV-2[3][4] that, in many cases, has proven to be superior to the intended effect of current COVID vaccines.[5][6][7] Studies have even demonstrated that a significant number of people who have never come in contact with SARS-CoV-2 possess memory-type, cross-reactive immunity from prior exposure to similar viruses.[8][9][10][11] In addition, some experts have warned about the possibility that individuals with pre-existing antibody immunity face an increased risk of severe adverse reaction following vaccination,[12] and a recent study of over 2,000 vaccinated individuals has confirmed this.[13] For these reasons, the blanket imposition of COVID vaccination that does not provide even a theoretical benefit to many individuals is unscientific, and, as further discussed below, is not without serious risk.

Prof. Spadafora also states that “you can’t spread what you aren’t infected with,” referring to the supposed effectiveness of COVID vaccination in preventing infection and transmission. However, the COVID vaccines currently in use cannot provide sterilizing immunity[14] or mucosal immunity (a critical defense mechanism against infection with respiratory viruses[15]), and therefore cannot prevent infection or transmission. Recent data from the U.S. CDC in relation to the now-dominant Delta strain even indicates that vaccinated individuals are likely to carry the same viral load as unvaccinated individuals, even if they have less severe COVID-19 symptoms.[16] With these facts considered, it becomes clear that COVID vaccine mandates and coercion make no medical sense — the pursuit of a 100% vaccination policy demonstrates no measurable benefit that would justify the violation of students’ rights to medical privacy and bodily autonomy.

The most crucial question that must be answered when considering the introduction of extraordinary, overreaching medical mandates is: In the given demographic, does the benefit to the collective sufficiently outweigh the risk to the individual? We have already discussed the inability of COVID vaccines to prevent infection and transmission (establishing the fallacy of vaccinating yourself for someone else’s sake); this must now be placed in the context of the university student demographic. We know from more than a year of accumulated data that the risk of mortality posed by SARS-CoV-2 infection in the overall population is approximately 0.15%, or 1 in 667.[17] We also know that this mortality rate is heavily skewed towards the elderly with pre-existing illness,[18][19] so much so that it conforms to the curve of natural mortality.[20] As such, the absolute risk posed by COVID-19 to individuals between the ages of 20–29 remains extremely low (in Canada, people in this demographic account for only 0.2% of all 26,592 deaths both with and from COVID to date[21]), and it has repeatedly been demonstrated that the risk of COVID-19 to those under the age of 19 is almost nil.[22][23][24],[25] A March 2021 estimation by the CDC placed the current IFR (infection fatality rate) of COVID in the USA for the 18–49 age bracket between 500 and 1,700 fatalities per 1,000,000 infections, or between 0.05% and 0.17%,[26] approximately five to eighteen times lower than the lifetime risk of death by a motor vehicle accident.[27]

With such a low absolute threat, any measure that seeks to benefit the young adult demographic should be demonstrated to have a near-absolute absence of serious risk. Unfortunately, the current data and warning signs indicate that this is not the case. It is well accepted by Health Canada, the U.S. FDA, and the European Medical Association that myocarditis and pericarditis (serious heart inflammation disorders), specifically in young adults, are among the severe adverse events attributable to mRNA COVID vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna,[28][29][30][31] just as instances of the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome,[32][33][34] capillary leak syndrome,[35] and blood clotting[36][37][38] were attributed to AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus-vector COVID vaccines before their use was either restricted or suspended in several countries.[39] Risks of thrombotic events and blood clotting have also been attributed to mRNA COVID vaccines,[40],[41] and additional serious adverse events, such as heart attacks[42] and miscarriages[43] (spontaneous abortion) in pregnant women, have also been reported.

The usual reason that concerns about adverse side effects are disregarded is that they are considered rare and proportionately minute compared to the risk of COVID-19, but this reasoning cannot be applied in the context of the young adult population. Unlike the risk of COVID-19, risk of adverse reactions to COVID vaccination is much more evenly distributed across age groups,[44][45] and the bare statistical rate of serious adverse events following COVID vaccination in Canada (0.006% according to Canada’s Adverse Events Following Immunization reporting system, AEFI[46]) is already six times higher than the statistical risk of COVID-19 mortality in healthy young adults in Canada (an average of 0.001% as estimated by Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis[47]). Considering that adverse reactions to vaccination are historically severely underreported,[48] the rate of injury could be significantly higher.

The risk-benefit ratio of mass COVID vaccination is therefore highly disproportionate in the young adult demographic. We see a clear example of this disproportionality in the recent report from Nova Scotia of 22 cases of myocarditis occurring post vaccination in individuals aged 20–30,[49] where only one of the province’s 93 total COVID mortalities was under the age of 50, and no deaths from COVID occurred under the age of 37.[50] For many of the reasons discussed above, multiple experts, including Harvard epidemiologist Prof. Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Stanford medical professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, UCI Medical Ethics Program Director Prof. Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, and the President of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Paul M. Kempen, have all denounced university vaccine mandates as being “misguided” and “dangerous for public health” (Kulldorff and Bhattacharya),[51] “unprecedented and unethical” (Kheriaty),[52] and “contrary to the bedrock medical principle of informed consent” (Kempen).[53]

The risk-benefit ratio in young adults becomes even more concerning when compounded with the fact that current COVID vaccines have only been in trial for a year or less (compared to the 5- to 10-year minimum in historical vaccine development[54]), do not yet have full approval by Health Canada (they are authorized for use under an emergency interim order[55]), and simply do not have long-term safety data. Proponents of COVID vaccination in children and young adults have been quick to discount any possibility of long-term harm with the notion that nothing about the mechanism of current COVID vaccines suggests the possibility of long-term harm — however, even if we disregard the reckless confidence of this rationale, which has been repeatedly countered,[56][57][58] it is also dangerously untrue. Several clear hypotheses for the mechanisms of harm of spike-protein mRNA (the active component of current mRNA COVID vaccines) have been posited by leading experts in microbiology, immunology, and toxicology in an exchange of letters with the European Medical Association between February 28 and April 20, 2021.[59][60][61][62] The association’s first letter[63] accurately predicted the rise in thrombotic (blood-clotting) adverse events that was observed in the following months, and the group continues to raise concerns that the most commonly listed “mild” adverse events of mRNA COVID vaccines (e.g., piercing headache, impaired consciousness, fatigue, twitching) point to far more widespread occurrence of thrombosis (specifically CVST, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) than previously estimated.[64] This has recently been corroborated by some highly concerning raw data produced by British Columbia physician Dr. Charles Hoffe, who reported elevated D-dimer levels in the blood of many of his patients post vaccination, including those who displayed no obvious adverse reactions.[65] (“D-dimers” are protein fragments produced by the body in the formation and dissolution of blood clots.[66]) Widespread occurrence of elevated D-dimer levels in recently vaccinated individuals suggests that blood clotting may be taking place at a microscopic scale even in those who display few or no symptoms post vaccination, and introduces serious new concerns about long-term safety and the mechanism of spike-protein mRNA vaccines as a whole. Until such time as each of these concerns has been thoroughly investigated and assessed, the long-term risks of current COVID vaccines must be regarded as a dangerous unknown.

As this letter has made it clear that:

  • current COVID vaccines do not prevent transmission;
  • the risk of COVID-19 to the young adult population is statistically miniscule, and the risk-benefit ratio of the mass vaccination of young adults against COVID is utterly disproportionate;
  • long-term risks of COVID vaccination remain unknown, but serious warning signs are emerging; and
  • COVID vaccination mandates for young adults have been shunned and denounced by medical ethicists and world-leading experts in medicine and epidemiology;

we as concerned students feel that the university cannot use COVID-19 as a justification for the violation of students’ rights to medical privacy and bodily autonomy, and we request the immediate retraction by the university of its recently announced COVID vaccination mandates. We are not requesting special exemption from the mandate, as we maintain that the mandate itself is nonscientific, discriminatory, and unethical, and the process of seeking exemption inevitably involves the disclosure of additional private information to which the university has no right — we request full retraction.

If the university, along with all affected faculties, continues to uphold its mandate in spite of the demonstrated lack of scientific and ethical justification, we are left to assume that the university has chosen to put politics ahead of its students’ rights and well-being. We are aware that the university has already been put on legal notice by Children’s Health Defense Canada and the Constitutional Rights Centre,[67] as have Seneca College and Western University for their own mandates.[68][69] We urge the University of Toronto to uphold its values of equity and unity and repeal its mandates so that this battle will not need to be fought in court.

We would like to conclude with the words of Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya from their incisive op-ed in The Hill:[70]

“Universities used to be bastions of enlightenment. Now many of them ignore basic benefit-risk analyses, a staple of the toolbox of scientists; they deny immunity from natural infection; they abandon the global international perspective for narrow nationalism; and they replace trust with coercion and authoritarianism. Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine thus threatens not only public health but also the future of science.”

Sincerely,

Benjamin Gabbay
Faculty of Music, MMus in Composition, second year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Jazz Performance, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Arts & Humanities, second year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Performance, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, DMA in Composition, final year

[Name redacted]
BE; Faculty of Law, second year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Performance, second year

[Name redacted]
Computer Engineering, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Education, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus comprehensive, fourth year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus comprehensive, fourth year

[Name redacted]
BASc

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, DMA candidate

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus in Music Performance, third year

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, BMus comprehensive, fourth year

[Name redacted]
BASc, third year

[Name redacted]
MASc, second year

[Name redacted]
Chemical Engineering

[Name redacted]
Faculty of Music, fourth year

Supporting signatories (alumni):

[Name redacted]
BMus, MT

[Name redacted]
BCom

[Name redacted]
BMus

[Name redacted]
Humanities

[Name redacted]
MMus Performance

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences

Additional signatories, August 19 (students):

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences (UTM)

[Name redacted]
Department of Physical and Environmental Science, first year

[Name redacted]
BSc

Additional signatories, August 19 (alumni):

[Name redacted]
Arts & Sciences (UTM)

[Name redacted]
B.A., OISE

[Name redacted]
Centre for Medieval Studies

[Name redacted]
OISE

[1] “U of T to require vaccination for high-risk activities, self-declaration of vaccination status” University of Toronto, July 29, 2021. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-require-vaccination-high-risk-activities-self-declaration-vaccination-status. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[2] Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, S.O. 2004, c. 3, Sched. A. (Online). Toronto: Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 2004. Available: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/04p03. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[3] Dan, Jennifer M et al. “Immunological memory to SARS-CoV-2 assessed for up to 8 months after infection.” Science (New York, N.Y.) vol. 371,6529 (2021): eabf4063. doi:10.1126/science.abf4063.

[4] Turner, Jackson S et al. “SARS-CoV-2 infection induces long-lived bone marrow plasma cells in humans.” Nature vol. 595,7867 (2021): 421–425. doi:10.1038/s41586–021–03647–4.

[5] Rosenberg, David. “Natural infection vs vaccination: Which gives more protection?” Israel National News, July 13, 2021. https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/309762. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[6] Goldberg, Yair et al. “Protection of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection is similar to that of BNT162b2 vaccine protection: A three-month nationwide experience from Israel.” medRxiv 2021.04.20.21255670; doi:10.1101/2021.04.20.21255670.

[7] Shrestha, Nabin K et al. “Necessity of COVID-19 vaccination in previously infected individuals.” medRxiv 2021.06.01.21258176; doi:10.1101/2021.06.01.21258176.

[8] Mahajan, Swapnil et al. “Immunodominant T-cell epitopes from the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen reveal robust pre-existing T-cell immunity in unexposed individuals.” Scientific reports vol. 11,1 13164. 23 Jun. 2021, doi:10.1038/s41598–021–92521–4.

[9] Doshi P. “Covid-19: Do many people have pre-existing immunity?” BMJ 2020:m3563. doi:10.1136/bmj.m3563

[10] Cox, Rebecca J, and Karl A Brokstad. “Not just antibodies: B cells and T cells mediate immunity to COVID-19.” Nature reviews. Immunology vol. 20,10 (2020): 581–582. doi:10.1038/s41577–020–00436–4

[11] Bhakdi, Sucharit et al. “Letter to Physicians: Four New Scientific Discoveries Regarding COVID-19 Immunity and Vaccines — Implications for Safety and Efficacy.” Doctors for COVID Ethics, July 9, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/letter-to-physicians-four-new-scientific-discoveries-crucial-to-the-safety-and-efficacy-of-covid-19-vaccines/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[12] Noorchashm, Hooman. “Urgent FDA Communication: J&J, Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Clotting Complications and the Naturally Immune.” Hooman Noorchashm, April 16, 2021. https://noorchashm.medium.com/urgent-fda-communication-j-j-pfizer-moderna-covid-19-vaccine-clotting-complications-and-the-e00382f8a8b. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[13] Mathioudakis, Alexander G et al. “Self-Reported Real-World Safety and Reactogenicity of COVID-19 Vaccines: A Vaccine Recipient Survey.” Life (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,3 249. 17 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/life11030249.

[14] Myhre, James et al. “Sterilizing Immunity and COVID-19 Vaccines.” Verywell Health, updated December 24, 2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/covid-19-vaccines-and-sterilizing-immunity-5092148. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[15] Russell, Michael W et al. “Mucosal Immunity in COVID-19: A Neglected but Critical Aspect of SARS-CoV-2 Infection.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 11 611337. 30 Nov. 2020, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.611337.

[16] Brown, Catherine M et al. “Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Infections, Including COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections, Associated with Large Public Gatherings — Barnstable County, Massachusetts.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2021;70:1059–1062, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7031e2.

[17] Ioannidis, John P A. “Reconciling estimates of global spread and infection fatality rates of COVID-19: An overview of systematic evaluations.” European journal of clinical investigation vol. 51,5 (2021): e13554. doi:10.1111/eci.13554.

[18] “Risk for COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death By Age Group.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated July 19, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-age.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[19] “See how age and illnesses change the risk of dying from covid-19.” The Economist, March 11, 2021. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/covid-pandemic-mortality-risk-estimator. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[20] “Why Covid-19 Is a ‘Strange Pandemic.’” Swiss Policy Research, September 2020. https://swprs.org/why-covid-19-is-a-strange-pandemic/. Accessed July 5, 2021.

[21] “COVID-19 daily epidemiology update.” Government of Canada, August 18, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[22] Bhopal, Sunil S et al. “Children and young people remain at low risk of COVID-19 mortality.” The Lancet. Child & adolescent health vol. 5,5 (2021): e12-e13. doi:10.1016/S2352–4642(21)00066–3.

[23] “Covid: Children’s extremely low risk confirmed by study.” BBC News Services, July 9, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-57766717. Accessed 5 July 2021.

[24] Webb, Nicole E et al. “Characteristics of Hospitalized Children Positive for SARS-CoV-2: Experience of a Large Center.” Hospital Pediatrics vol. 11,8 (2021): e133-e141. doi:10.1542/hpeds.2021–005919.

[25] Blakely, Rhys. “All children who died of Covid-19 were already seriously ill.” The Times, August 28, 2020. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/all-children-who-died-of-covid-19-were-already-seriously-ill-jlxr8mkxq. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[26] “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated March 19, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[27] “Odds of Dying.” National Safety Council, Injury facts, 2019. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/all-injuries/preventable-death-overview/odds-of-dying/data-details/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[28] “Health Canada updates several COVID-19 vaccine labels with warnings about certain health risks.” CBC News, June 30, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/health-canada-astrazeneca-capillary-leak-syndrome-1.6085674. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[29] “Myocarditis and Pericarditis Following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated June 23, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/myocarditis.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[30] “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: June 25, 2021.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, June 25 2021. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-june-25-2021. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[31] “COVID-19 vaccine safety update.” European Medicines Agency, July 14, 2021. https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/covid-19-vaccine-safety-update/covid-19-vaccine-safety-update-comirnaty-14-july-2021_en.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[32] George, Judy. “FDA Warns About Post-COVID Vax Guillain-Barré Syndrome.” MedPage Today, July 12, 2021. https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19vaccine/93537. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[33] Lyons, Erin. “TGA probe into Guillain-Barre Syndrome diagnoses in eight patients after AstraZeneca vaccine.” Nationwide News, May 20, 2021. https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/tga-probe-into-guillainbarre-syndrome-diagnoses-in-eight-patients-after-astrazeneca-vaccine/news-story/6b3036bdef7895446b02d300aee808b9. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[34] The Paul Erlich Institute found that GBS occurred “at an increased rate” in vaccinated patients. See: “Berichtszeitraum 27.12. bis 31.05.2021,” Paul-Erlich-Institut, June 10, 2021, https://www.pei.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/newsroom/dossiers/sicherheitsberichte/sicherheitsbericht-27-12-bis-31-05-21.pdf.

[35] “Health Canada issues label change on the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccines.” Healthy Canadians, Recalls and safety alerts, June 29, 2021. https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2021/75389a-eng.php. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[36] Campbell, Lucy. “Lisa Shaw death: BBC presenter had blood clots after AstraZeneca jab, family says.” The Guardian, May 27, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/may/27/bbc-presenter-lisa-shaw-died-of-blood-clot-after-astrazeneca-jab-family-says. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[37] Filetto, Giuseppe et al. “Camilla Canepa, the 18-year-old from Sestri Levante vaccinated with AstraZeneca, died. Investigation of the Public Prosecutor of Genoa for manslaughter.” la Repubblica, June 20, 2021. https://genova.repubblica.it/cronaca/2021/06/10/news/e_morta_camilla_canepa_la_18enne_ligure_vaccinata_con_astrazeneca-305366834/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[38] White, Debbie. “Man has leg amputated after suffering rare blood clot three weeks after first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.” The Sun, June 18, 2021. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/15320182/man-leg-amputated-blood-clot-three-weeks-astrazeneca-vaccine/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[39] “Factbox: Details of use of AstraZeneca, J&J COVID vaccines.” Reuters, April 20, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/some-countries-limit-astrazeneca-vaccine-use-eu-findings-jj-shot-expected-2021-04-20/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[40] “Reported side effects following COVID-19 vaccination in Canada.” Government of Canada, updated July 30, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccine-safety/#noteTTS. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[41] Lawrie, Tess. “Urgent preliminary report of Yellow Card data up to 26th May 2021.” The Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy, June 9, 2021. https://b3d2650e-e929-4448-a527-4eeb59304c7f.filesusr.com/ugd/593c4f_b2acdef3774b4e9ca06e9fae526fd5cd.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[42] “Search results where vaccine target is COVID-19 and symptom is myocardial infarction.” National Vaccine Information Centerhttps://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?EVENTS=on&PAGENO=1&PERPAGE=10&ESORT=&REVERSESORT=&VAX=(COVID19)&SYMPTOMS=(10028596). Accessed 5 August 2021.

[43] “Search results where vaccine target is COVID-19 and symptom is spontaneous abortion.” National Vaccine Information Centerhttps://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?EVENTS=on&PAGENO=1&PERPAGE=10&ESORT=&REVERSESORT=&VAX=(COVID19)&SYMPTOMS=(10000234). Accessed 5 August 2021.

[44] “Search results where vaccine target is COVID-19 and symptom is serious.” National Vaccine Information Centerhttps://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/findfield.php?EVENTS=on&PAGENO=1&PERPAGE=10&ESORT=&REVERSESORT=&VAX=(COVID19)&SERIOUS=ON. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[45] “Reported side effects following COVID-19 vaccination in Canada.” Government of Canada, July 30, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccine-safety/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ioannidis, John P A et al. “Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters.” Environmental research vol. 188 (2020): 109890. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2020.109890

[48] Lazarus, Ross. “Electronic Support for Public Health–Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (ESP:VAERS).” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, September 2010. https://digital.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/docs/publication/r18hs017045-lazarus-final-report-2011.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[49] The Canadian Press. “N.S. reports 22 cases of heart inflammation following mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.” Toronto Star, July 23, 2021. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/07/23/ns-reports-22-cases-of-heart-inflammation-following-mrna-covid-19-vaccines.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[50] Walton, Victoria et al. “Tracking all of Nova Scotia’s COVID deaths.” The Coast, May 25, 2021. https://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/tracking-all-of-nova-scotias-covid-deaths/Content?oid=26404463. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[51] Kulldorff, Martin et al. “The ill-advised push to vaccinate the young.” The Hill, June 17, 2021. https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/558757-the-ill-advised-push-to-vaccinate-the-young. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[52] Kheriaty, Aaron et al. “University Vaccine Mandates Violate Medical Ethics.” The Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/university-vaccine-mandates-violate-medical-ethics-11623689220. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[53] Kempen, Paul M. “Open Letter from Physicians to Universities: Allow Students Back Without COVID Vaccine Mandate.” Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, April 24, 2021. https://aapsonline.org/open-letter-from-physicians-to-universities-reverse-covid-vaccine-mandates/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[54] Loprespub. “COVID-19 Vaccine Research and Development.” Library of Parliament, HillNotes, June 23, 2021. https://hillnotes.ca/2020/06/23/covid-19-vaccine-research-and-development/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[55] Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19(Online) Ottawa: Health Canada, September 16, 2020. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/interim-order-import-sale-advertising-drugs.html. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[56] Doshi, Peter. “Covid-19 vaccines: In the rush for regulatory approval, do we need more data?” BMJ 2021;373:n1244. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1244.

[57] Wastila, Linda et al. “Why we petitioned the FDA to refrain from fully approving any covid-19 vaccine this year.” The BMJ Opinion, June 8 2021. https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/06/08/why-we-petitioned-the-fda-to-refrain-from-fully-approving-any-covid-19-vaccine-this-year/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[58] Siri, Aaron. “Federal law prohibits employers and others from requiring vaccination with a Covid-19 vaccine distributed under an EUA.” STAT, Feb 23, 2021. https://www.statnews.com/2021/02/23/federal-law-prohibits-employers-and-others-from-requiring-vaccination-with-a-covid-19-vaccine-distributed-under-an-eua/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[59] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Urgent Open Letter from Doctors and Scientists to the European Medicines Agency regarding COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Concerns.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, March 10, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/urgent-open-letter-from-doctors-and-scientists-to-the-european-medicines-agency-regarding-covid-19-vaccine-safety-concerns/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[60] Burgos, Juan Garcia. “Reply from the European Medicines Agency to Doctors for Covid Ethics, March 23, 2021.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 1, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/reply-from-the-european-medicines-agency-to-doctors-for-covid-ethics-march-23-2021/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[61] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Rebuttal letter to European Medicines Agency from Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 1, 2021.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 1, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/rebuttal-letter-to-european-medicines-agency-from-doctors-for-covid-ethics-april-1-2021/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[62] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Doctors and Scientists Write to the European Medicines Agency, Warning of COVID-19 Vaccine Dangers for a Third Time.” Doctors for Covid Ethics, April 24, 2021. https://doctors4covidethics.org/doctors-and-scientists-write-to-the-european-medicines-agency-warning-of-covid-19-vaccine-dangers-for-a-third-time/. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[63] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Urgent Open Letter from Doctors and Scientists to the European Medicines Agency regarding COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Concerns.”

[64] Bhakti, Sucharit et al. “Doctors and Scientists Write to the European Medicines Agency, Warning of COVID-19 Vaccine Dangers for a Third Time.”

[65] “Doctors for Covid Ethics Symposium — Session 1.” Doctors for COVID Ethics, August 4, 2021. https://tube.doctors4covidethics.org/videos/watch/a288d316-9975-4673-a5bf-2f16ca5d7764, (02:03:30). Accessed 5 August 2021.

[66] “D-dimer.” Lab Tests Online, updated June 18, 2021. https://labtestsonline.org/tests/d-dimer. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[67] Sherazee, Amina. “Re: ‘Mandatory Vaccinations’ for Students in Residence.” Constitutional Rights Centre, July 31, 2021. https://www.constitutionalrightscentre.ca/20CRC16/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/CHDC-Letter-Ontario-UniversitiesColleges.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[68] Sherazee, Amina. “Re: ‘Mandatory Vaccinations’ for Students on-Campus.” Constitutional Rights Centre, July 24, 2021. https://childrenshealthdefense.ca/wp-content/uploads/CHDC-Ltr-Seneca-College.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[69] Sherazee, Amina. “Re: ‘Mandatory Vaccinations’ for Students in Residence.” Constitutional Rights Centre, July 21, 2021. https://childrenshealthdefense.ca/wp-content/uploads/CHDC-Ltr-Western-University.pdf. Accessed 5 August 2021.

[70] Kulldorff, Martin et al. “The ill-advised push to vaccinate the young.” The Hill, June 17, 2021. https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/558757-the-ill-advised-push-to-vaccinate-the-young. Accessed 5 August 2021.

August 19, 2021

From: Concerned University of Toronto Student Group
Represented by Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Follow-up: Joint letter from concerned U of T students

On August 6, 2021, our group sent a letter responding to the University of Toronto’s COVID vaccination mandates announced July 29,[1] in which we detailed our concerns regarding the ethicality and necessity of forcing students to disclose their private health information and outlined several reasons — referenced with peer-reviewed studies, expert opinions, and official government data — why such mandates have no basis in science. We are disappointed that, as of August 19, we have not received a response, or even an acknowledgement. However, on August 11, the university published another announcement[2] that simply reinforced the mandates laid out in its July 29 announcement. Although this new announcement is titled “The public health evidence is clear,” no scientific references are provided, and our concerns regarding the lack of justification for these mandates remain the same.

Prof. Spadafora, the Council of Ontario Universities, and Colleges Ontario cite “growing concerns about the Delta and other variants of COVID-19,” but do not explain how this necessitates mandatory COVID vaccination of the student population, given the public health data we are seeing worldwide. In addition to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s data from July 30 indicating that vaccinated individuals are capable of carrying the same viral load of the Delta variant as unvaccinated individuals,[3] Public Health England has since come to the same conclusions,[4] and three of the world’s most vaccinated populations — Iceland (75%), Malta (92%), and Gibraltar (99%+)[5] — have all, within the past month, experienced their highest levels of COVID-19 prevalence since the beginning of the year.[6][7] If COVID-vaccinated individuals are just as capable of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 as the unvaccinated, widespread vaccination does not prevent outbreaks, and, as Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Professor Dr. Marty Makarty put it, “Those who are unvaccinated pose no risk to the vaccinated beyond that of a common cold,”[8] it remains apparent to us that the University of Toronto’s recent mandates are a political act with no basis in science, frivolously violating its students’ bodily autonomy and rights to medical privacy.

In addition to the COVID vaccine safety concerns raised in our original letter, we would also like to draw attention to two further important analyses that have since been published: a study by infectious disease expert Dr. George A. Diaz et al. in JAMA Cardiology[9] that found myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation disorders) occurring post COVID vaccination at more than twice the rate originally estimated by the CDC, and a letter by Prof. Nouara Yahi et al. published in The Journal of Infection[10] that warns of the potential for current COVID vaccines to facilitate ADE (antibody-dependent-enhancement[11]) in vaccinated individuals challenged with the Delta variant, potentially worsening disease outcomes in those to whom COVID would not normally pose a threat without vaccine intervention (e.g., the young and healthy).

As the university has unfortunately shown itself to be unwilling to engage with us on these issues, we feel that our best alternative is to make these letters open to the public in hopes of drawing wider attention to our concerns about U of T’s mandates and the lack of evidence supporting them. Our first letter of August 6 and this follow-up letter have been published on https://studentsforcovidethics.org/. We have also acquired additional signatories since our August 6 letter; these will be listed separately at the end of this document, following our original letter and the list of original signatories.

Sincerely,

Concerned U of T Student Group

[1] “U of T to require vaccination for high-risk activities, self-declaration of vaccination status” University of Toronto, July 29, 2021. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/u-t-require-vaccination-high-risk-activities-self-declaration-vaccination-status. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[2] “‘The public health evidence is clear’: Salvatore Spadafora on U of T’s vaccine requirement” University of Toronto, August 11, 2021. https://www.utoronto.ca/news/public-health-evidence-clear-salvatore-spadafora-u-t-s-vaccine-requirement. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[3] Brown, Catherine M et al. “Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Infections, Including COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Infections, Associated with Large Public Gatherings — Barnstable County, Massachusetts.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2021;70:1059–1062, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7031e2.

[4] Public Health England. SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in EnglandTechnical Briefing 20. (Online) August 6, 2021. Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1009243/Technical_Briefing_20.pdf. Accessed 18 August 2021.

[5] Our World in Data. “Share of people vaccinated against COVID-19, Aug 16, 2021.” (Online) August 16, 2021. https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&facet=none&pickerSort=asc&pickerMetric=total_vaccinations_per_hundred&Metric=People+vaccinated+%28by+dose%29&Interval=7-day+rolling+average&Relative+to+Population=true&Align+outbreaks=false&country=ISL~MLT~GIB (Accessed 18 August 2021)

[6] Our World in Data. “Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people.” (Online) August 17, 2021. https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&facet=none&pickerSort=asc&pickerMetric=total_vaccinations_per_hundred&Metric=Confirmed+cases&Interval=7-day+rolling+average&Relative+to+Population=true&Align+outbreaks=false&country=ISL~MLT~GIB (Accessed 18 August 2021)

[7] Worldometers.info. “Gibraltar COVID: Cases and Deaths.” (Online) August 18, 2021. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/gibraltar/ Accessed 18 August 2021.

[8] “Could the Delta variant mean another season of online learning?” Fox News. August 5, 2021. https://video.foxnews.com/v/6266668811001, (02:35). Accessed 18 August 2021.

[9] Diaz, G.A. et al. “Myocarditis and Pericarditis After Vaccination for COVID-19.” JAMA. Published online August 04, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.13443.

[10] Yahi, Nouara et al. “Infection-enhancing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies recognize both the original Wuhan/D614G strain and Delta variants. A potential risk for mass vaccination?” The Journal of Infection, S0163–4453(21)00392–3. 9 Aug. 2021, doi:10.1016/j.jinf.2021.08.010

[11] Tirado, Sol M Cancel et al. “Antibody-dependent enhancement of virus infection and disease.” Viral immunology vol. 16,1 (2003): 69–86. doi:10.1089/088282403763635465.

August 20, 2021

From: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

To: Benjamin Gabbay
Concerned U of T Student Group
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

RE: Follow-up: Joint letter from concerned U of T students

Dear Benjamin,

Thank you for your letter.  I am writing on behalf of the President, the Acting Provost and the other UofT officials who were cc:ed on your email.

The University takes a different view regarding the points that you have made.  The University, in consultation with medical and science experts, is of the unequivocal view that vaccines are both effective and safe and that vaccination against COVID-19 is the single most effective public heath measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted post-secondary campuses and their surrounding communities. The risk of COVID-19 has been highlighted by outbreaks among post-secondary students, both on and off campus. On August 17, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health indicated that vaccination against COVID-19 will be required for all participants of in-person activities on post-secondary campuses, with the rare exception of those individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to permitted exemptions (medical or protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code).   As such, the University’s policies and guidelines will align with the most recent provincial directives.

Sincerely,

Sandy Welsh
Vice-Provost, Students

August 22, 2021

From: Concerned University of Toronto Student Group
Represented by Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Meric Gertler, President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Beth Ali, Exec. Director of Athletics & Physical Activity
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ryan McClelland, Associate Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

To: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Trevor Young, Acting Vice-President & Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Ellie Hisama, Dean
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up: Joint letter from concerned U of T students

Dear Vice-Provost Welsh,

Thank you for your reply.

It is precisely the university’s reliance on “views”—in place of transparent scientific debate—that compels my colleagues and me to bring forward our concerns. One of the tenets taught in higher education is the importance of academic debate and enquiry, whereby we have always been encouraged to question consensus and follow those questions wherever they lead us. We do not claim to be experts; we approached this issue the same way we do any of our academic activities, leaning on the observations of experts to form a comprehensive conclusion. As you say you have done the same, we would expect the results to be presented with the same academic rigour that we have applied in presenting our concerns. It appears to us that every assertion made by the university since July 29 on this issue has been referenced only with other assertions by higher levels of administration (e.g., the University Health Network, the Ontario Council of Universities) without the presentation of transparent scientific rationale, as if these statements were simply to be taken at face value.

This is why we wrote our letter: it concerns us deeply that the violation of students’ privacy and bodily autonomy is apparently based on a “view” that the university has taken and seems unwilling to debate. It is inevitable that experts will disagree—the university’s scientists may disagree with the experts we have cited, and they have every right to do so—but at a minimum, we would expect them to provide the data and rationale that led them to reach those conclusions, rather than positing a “view” or deferring to the unilateral declaration of a higher authority. If the university cannot do this, regardless of who that higher authority may be, it has, in the words of Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, “replaced trust with coercion and authoritarianism,” and has failed to stand for the values it purports to teach.

Sincerely,
Benjamin Gabbay
on behalf of Concerned U of T Students

January 11, 2022

From: Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Follow-up re: U of T medical mandates

Dear Vice-Provost Welsh,

On August 6, 2021, twenty-five of my colleagues and I wrote you an extensive letter expressing many concerns regarding U of T’s implementation of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy at the start of the Fall 2021 semester. After sending a follow-up letter on August 19 and publishing our letter on https://studentsforcovidethics.org, we received a response from you on August 20, in which you stated that the university “takes a different view” regarding the points we raised. We responded August 22, expressing concern with the idea that policies of this nature should be based on a “view” and that no scientific literature had yet been brought forward by the university in rebuttal of our scientifically referenced concerns. We never received another response.

Since that time, hundreds of U of T students, staff, and faculty have had their lives, futures, and finances upended by the university’s decisions; many of them wrote to me after finding my original letter and our correspondence published on the website above. I’ve heard from students who had travelled from across the country and across continents to study at U of T, only to end up stranded in Toronto and forbidden to set foot on campus; students who were forcibly de-enrolled from classes without refund of their tuition, even though those classes were online; staff members with decades of service who were forced into unpaid leave, even if their work never required them to attend campus; prospective students who had to forgo their hard-earned university acceptance and tens of thousands of dollars in entrance scholarships; and the list goes on.

Dr. Welsh, are you at least willing to give these former students and employees the dignity of a transparent, scientific discussion, instead of only offering your institution’s “view?” If so, I will ask again, as I did in August, for you to please provide the university’s scientific data on whose basis it continues to uphold its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, considering that the current scientific literature demonstrates the following:

  1. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are equally capable of transmission of the now-prevalent strains of SARS-CoV-2. A study of household viral transmission published in The Lancet, Infectious Diseases found that “fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection” (https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00648-4), and has been corroborated by a CDC-funded preprint that found “no difference in infectious virus titer” between infected vaccinated and infected unvaccinated individuals (https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.31.21261387).
  2. Vaccine prevalence does not correlate with lower COVID-19 prevalence. An analysis of 68 countries and 2947 U.S. counties published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that “at the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases,” and that, among U.S. counties, “there also appears to be no significant signaling of COVID-19 cases decreasing with higher percentages of population fully vaccinated” (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-021-00808-7).
  3. With the emergence of omicron, vaccine mandates become even more baseless. Preliminary research indicates that vaccine protection against the rapidly dominating omicron variant is negligible, even with a third (booster) dose (https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.30.21268565), and, since the start of 2022, COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated individuals have consistently outnumbered those in unvaccinated individuals by at least five fold (https://data.ontario.ca/dataset/covid-19-vaccine-data-in-ontario/resource/eed63cf2-83dd-4598-b337-b288c0a89a16).
  4. Urgent concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine safety and manufacturer’s integrity continue to be raised. A detailed study published in Toxicology Reports identified several serious concerns regarding mid- and long-term safety of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxrep.2021.08.010, see in particular section 3.1.3.1.) and the Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, the only vaccine still promoted for use in young adults and adolescents in Canada, is the subject of controversy on account of a serious lack of integrity in its vaccine clinical trial data, as reported in the British Medical Journal by two whistleblowers (https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2635). Additionally, an independent review of Pfizer’s 6-month trial data by a consortium of over 500 Canadian doctors, scientists, and health care practitioners brings to light serious concerns with data quality and exposes several clear warning signs regarding product safety (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/The-COVID-19-Inoculations-More-Harm-Than-Good-REV-Dec-16-2021.pdf).

The scientific considerations above stand alongside those already raised in my original letters of August 6 and August 19, all of which have yet to be addressed in any response from the university. On behalf of all students, staff, and faculty whose futures have been irreparably disrupted by the university’s decisions, I am asking for the courtesy of a response that discloses the science on which the University of Toronto has based its COVID-19 vaccine policy and addresses the concerns raised above and in my group’s previous letters (viewable on https://studentsforcovidethics.org).

Finally, in your letter of August 20, you state that “the University’s policies and guidelines will align with the most recent provincial directives.” I would like to point out that the most recent directive publicly issued on this matter by Ontario’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, on August 30, 2021 (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/CMOH-Instructions-EN.pdf) clearly allows students and employees, under section 1(c) to complete “an educational session approved by the Covered Organization about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination prior to declining vaccination for any reason other than a medical reason” as an alternative to providing proof of vaccination. Although it is set out in section 2 that institutions may choose to exclude this option 1(c) in their policy, its exclusion is done solely at the institution’s discretion. Therefore, although the university has frequently stated in its communication with students that it is merely abiding by provincial directives, the onus of instating a hard COVID-19 vaccination mandate (with only rare, arbitrarily granted exemptions) rests entirely on the university.

I would appreciate a response at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Benjamin Gabbay

March 18, 2022

From: Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Prof. Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up re: U of T medical mandates

Dear Vice-Provost Welsh,

It’s been more than two months since I sent my last letter of January 11, and I have yet to receive a response. At the time, I sent similar letters to President Gertler’s office and to Meredith Strong (who I understand is the Senior Lead on COVID-19 student matters) but received no response from them, either. I am again asking for a response that addresses the concerns I have laid out repeatedly in all my letters since August 6, 2021 (published on https://studentsforcovidethics.org), not only for my sake, but for the sake of all the students who have been disastrously impacted by U of T’s COVID policies since the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year, as I already described in my January 11 letter.

I am aware that many students who wrote to President Gertler’s office in recent months received the following standardized reply: https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/Response-from-UofT-Jan-2022.pdf. In it, the university states that it is “legally required to adhere to the recommendations made by the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health in its letter (https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.alphaweb.org/resource/collection/D927A028-023E-4413-B438-86101BEFB7B7/COMOH_Vaccine_Policies_at_Ontario_Universities_and_Colleges_260821.pdf) by virtue of Amending O. Reg. 364/20.” Nevertheless, on March 9, 2022, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieren Moore stated that he had, on March 1, “revoked the instructions for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for the Ontario public service and for post-secondary institutions” (https://youtu.be/fxlrIxex_lw?t=170). The university had stated in its response to our group of August 20 (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/#aug20) that “the University’s policies and guidelines will align with the most recent provincial directives.”

It’s also worth noting that, on February 16, 2022, one of British Columbia’s largest public health authorities, Vancouver Coastal Health, issued a letter to the University of British Columbia to “strongly advise against” the de-enrolling of students who have refused to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status, as there is “no evidence” that such people “pose any public health risk to their fellow students, faculty or staff” (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/2022-02-16-Letter-from-VCH.pdf). This is precisely what we have been asking U of T to recognize since August 2021.

In light of all these recent developments, I now ask: When will the University of Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccination policy be removed? I am aware that the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) stated on Feb. 22 that Ontario universities would “maintain their COVID-19 vaccination policies until at least the end of the current term,” but this is no assurance to the hundreds of disenfranchised students who are still left wondering whether they will be able to come to campus in the summer or fall semesters. All Ontario universities, including U of T, are currently upholding a mandate in the absence of a) up-to-date scientific evidence (as discussed in my letter of Jan. 11) and b) support from the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. On what basis is your policy justified in existing even one day longer?

Once again, I am asking for the courtesy of a response that addresses these questions and concerns. I have now spent almost the entirety of what would have been my 2021-2022 academic year (and the graduating year of my MA) corresponding with and trying to be a voice for students who feel like the university has failed to even give them the time of day after irreparably disrupting their lives. We are not trying to be rabble-rousers; we are concerned, as we have been since August 2021, that the university is upholding discriminatory policies without scientific basis. The very least we are asking for is an honest, transparent conversation.

I am also aware that, in a February 16 letter, the law firm of lawyer Courtney Betty cautioned U of T regarding multiple breaches of the Ontario Human Rights Code as a result of the school’s conduct in upholding their COVID-19 vaccine mandate (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/Letter-to-President-U-of-T-2022-02-16.pdf). With this matter pending submission to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and with Dr. Kieran Moore’s revocation of his letter of instruction, our questions become more pertinent than ever: Under what scientific basis is U of T’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate currently in place, and when will it be removed?

Your expedient response would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Benjamin Gabbay

April 5, 2022

From: Rheema Farrell,
Administrative Assistant, Correspondence UnitOffice of the President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

To: Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up re: U of T medical mandates

Dear Benjamin,

I am writing in response to your email of March 22, 2022 and on behalf of staff and faculty of the University to whom you have corresponded.

As indicated in the community message sent on March 29, 2022, the vaccine requirement will be paused beginning on May 1, 2022, prior to the start of the summer term.

While the vaccine passport was lifted by the Province of Ontario in March, it is important to note that the University’s vaccine requirements pre-dated the Province’s passport system, and was created under separate legislation.  We are aware of the comments made by the Chief Officer of Health; however, as you note, the Universities in Ontario concluded that in order to minimize uncertainty and disruption to our students, staff, faculty and university communities, U of T would maintain the COVID-19 vaccination and masking policies until the end of the winter term, April 30, 2022.  Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has indicated his support for the continuation of vaccine policies by post-secondary institutions.

As the University and public health experts, including UofT faculty, have consistently indicated, vaccination is the most important way that individuals can protect themselves against COVID-19. This in turn protects the community and our health care system.  At a local level, vaccination protects our community members from serious illness so that they may continue with their academic pursuits.

Sincerely,

Rheema Farrell

April 26, 2022

From: Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Rheema Farrell,
Administrative Assistant, Correspondence UnitOffice of the President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Cc: Prof. Trudo Lemmens,
Scholl Chair in Health Law and PolicyFaculty of Law, University of Toronto
[email protected]

Prof. Kevin Bardosh
School of Public Health, University of Washington
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up re: U of T medical mandates

Dear Rheema, 

Thank you for your email of April 5. 

Unfortunately, the University of Toronto’s decision to “pause” their COVID vaccine requirement provides no assurance to those students who have been locked out of U of T’s campus this past year that they will be able to continue their studies in future semesters. Several students have already told me that they are hesitant to re-enroll in their studies for fear that they will be simply be de-enrolled without recourse in the middle of the 2022-2023 year, should U of T decide to “un-pause” the COVID vaccine requirement. These are students who have already lost tuition, OSAP funding, and work-study opportunities due to the university’s actions last year and absolutely cannot afford to subject themselves to the university’s whims in introducing future requirements. This is why, as I trust you’ll understand, we continue to seek answers to our concerns about the pretext under which the mandates were originally introduced. 

I’m aware that Ontario universities’ mandates were introduced under separate legislation, which is why, in my previous email, I made no mention of the provincial vaccine passport requirement and referred specifically to Dr. Kieran Moore’s revocation of his August 30 letter of instruction for post-secondary institutions. As I also mentioned previously, Dr. Moore’s letter of instruction (https://ontariosuniversities.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/CMOH-Instructions-EN.pdf) allows students and employees, under section 1(c), to complete “an educational session approved by the Covered Organization about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination prior to declining vaccination for any reason other than a medical reason” as an alternative to providing proof of vaccination. Although it is set out in section 2 that institutions may choose to exclude this option 1(c) in their policy, its exclusion is solely at the institution’s discretion. Therefore, U of T remains responsible for its decision to de-enroll and punish students who have not disclosed their vaccination status. I’m aware that U of T has also argued (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/Response-from-UofT-Jan-2022.pdf) that it was compelled to exclude Dr. Moore’s option 1(c) from its policy due to the recommendations set out in the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH) letter of August 24, 2021 (https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.alphaweb.org/resource/collection/D927A028-023E-4413-B438-86101BEFB7B7/COMOH_Vaccine_Policies_at_Ontario_Universities_and_Colleges_260821.pdf). However, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), of which U of T is a part, stated in November 2021 that it “played a key role in working with the Council of Medical Officers of Health (COMOH) to achieve a mandatory vaccination recommendation” in universities (see https://uwaterloo.ca/secretariat/sites/ca.secretariat/files/uploads/files/20211115oagsen_package_2_0.pdf, pg. 29). Therefore, the onus falls back on U of T and other universities for having advocated for the COMOH’s more stringent recommendation in the first place. 

This brings me back to the same question we have been asking for months: What was the scientific rationale behind the push for, and implementation of, these mandates? Assuming that U of T was involved in the COU’s collaboration with the COMOH to recommend the most stringent mandate possible—even more stringent than the one recommended by Dr. Kieran Moore, as explained above—what were the data and scientific literature used by U of T and the COU to inform this recommendation? 

Repeatedly, in response to the above question, we have been told that unnamed experts have been consulted, but no further details were provided. I understand, as you say, that the recommendation of public health officials would play a role in this decision-making—but the recommendations of the COU exceeded those of Dr. Moore, and, even two weeks after Dr. Moore’s February 4, 2022 statement that “the vaccine isn’t providing significant benefit at two doses against the risk of transmission, as compared to someone unvaccinated” (https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-needs-to-reassess-the-value-of-covid-19-vaccine-passport-system-top-doctor-says-1.5765973), Vice-Provost Sandy Welsh, in response to being asked if and when U of T would amend its mandate, stated that “There are no immediate plans to change the vaccine requirement at this time” (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/files/Response-from-Sandy-Welsh-Feb-17-2022.pdf). Considering that the Office of the Chief Scientific Advisor of Canada has stated that “The utility of COVID-19 vaccination certificates beyond healthcare settings is predicated on the effectiveness of the vaccines at eliminating or reducing viral transmission and the duration of the protection they confer” (https://science.gc.ca/eic/site/063.nsf/eng/h_98229.html), the lack of responsive action from the university at a time when public health was directly indicating against the effectiveness of proof-of-vaccination requirements is not confidence-inspiring. 

With this in mind, could you please clarify who were the experts at U of T who informed the university’s decisions surrounding the enactment and enforcement of its COVID vaccine mandate? Could you also please clarify what role U of T played in the COU’s advocacy of a COVID vaccine mandate that exceeded the recommendations of the Chief Public Officer of Health? I’m led to assume that U of T played a significant role in this effort, since most of the text of Vice-Provost Sandy Welsh’s August 20 response to our group letter (https://studentsforcovidethics.org/#aug20) appeared four days later in the COMOH’s letter (https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.alphaweb.org/resource/collection/D927A028-023E-4413-B438-86101BEFB7B7/COMOH_Vaccine_Policies_at_Ontario_Universities_and_Colleges_260821.pdf), which came about as a result of the COU collaboration referenced above. 

In addition, could you please clarify the context in which Dr. Kieran Moore allegedly indicated his support for the continuation of vaccine policies by post-secondary institutions. Was this a statement that Dr. Moore issued, and if so, when was it issued, and is there a place where it can be read? 

I look forward to receiving the university’s response to these important questions. 

While it has been frustratingly difficult to obtain responses from U of T’s administration on these issues, I would like to give credit to the U of T Faculty of Law and its Prof. Trudo Lemmens for hosting a recent workshop (https://www.law.utoronto.ca/events/unintended-consequences-covid-19-vaccine-mandates-why-they-may-cause-more-harm-good) on the unintended consequences of COVID vaccine mandates—centered around on a paper (http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4022798) authored by Prof. Kevin Bardosh of the University of Washington, Prof. Lemmens (both CC’d on this letter), and other health policy experts from across North America and the UK—which took a significant step towards acknowledging the unwarranted harm caused by mandates such as U of T’s and the lack of justification for their continued enforcement. I sincerely hope that U of T administration will follow the example set by Prof. Lemmens and his coauthors and begin to engage in respectful conversation on these concerns with its students. 

Thank you, 

Benjamin Gabbay

Two follow-up emails were sent to the Office of the President during the month of June, requesting a response to the April 26 letter. The full email correspondence since January 11, 2022, which includes these follow-ups, may be read here.

June 28, 2022

From: Rheema Farrell,
Administrative Assistant, Correspondence UnitOffice of the President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

To: Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up re: U of T medical mandates

Good day Benjamin,

Thank you for your follow-up. However, you received a fulsome response previously therefore we will not be commenting further.

Best wishes,

Rheema Farrell

July 22, 2022

From: Benjamin Gabbay
[email protected]

To: Rheema Farrell,
Administrative Assistant, Correspondence UnitOffice of the President
University of Toronto
[email protected]

Re: Follow-up re: U of T medical mandates

Dear Rheema,

Respectfully, I find it hard to accept that anyone who would have taken the time to read the correspondence I exchanged with the school over the past several months could say that what I received on April 5 was a “fulsome response.” The Office’s email of April 5 spoke to a point that I never even made (the Office said that the school’s mandates were unrelated to the provincial passport system, even though I never said that it was related, and I always specifically referred to the mandates brought under Dr. Moore’s August 30, 2021 letter), and I still have not received any form of response to the most fundamental question I have posed in my correspondence since August 2021: namely, what were the data and scientific literature being used to inform U of T’s support of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate? This question remains relevant both in the context of the university’s independent mandate that was enacted on July 29, 2021, and in the context of U of T’s involvement in the Council of Ontario Universities’ advocacy to the CMOH for a recommendation even more stringent than the one issued August 30 by Dr. Moore (as detailed in my previous letter).

As I have repeatedly stated, this question is also the absolute minimum that the university should be able to answer after having caused unprecedented disruption to so many students’ lives. For an institution that is considered one of the leading universities in the world; whose professors teach the importance of rigorous research and robust debate; that champions diversity and inclusion; and into which the students you have impacted have collectively invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and many years of their lives; it is baffling, stark hypocrisy that the administration of the University of Toronto would choose to act this way.

As with all previous correspondence on this matter, this latest exchange will be published on https://studentsforcovidethics.org for the public to read and determine for themselves whether the University of Toronto has satisfactorily addressed the concerns of its students.

Regards,

Benjamin Gabbay

Sign in support of our open letters

Sign as a U of T student

Please sign using a utoronto.ca email address. Your name and email address will not be displayed publicly or shared with anyone else.

Sign as a U of T student

109 signatures

Share this with your friends:

   

Sign as a member of the public

Your name and email address will not be displayed publicly or shared with anyone else.

Sign as a member of the public

283 signatures

Share this with your friends: